5 Things to Know About Mice in the Kitchen

updated Oct 4, 2023
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(Image credit: Marina Sun)

You already know they’re icky. And you probably know that if you have one mouse, you really have more than one (if you didn’t, I’m sorry). I happen to know, from an unfortunate experience in my last apartment, that they enjoy cookies most, pasta next, and Thai rice noodles least — at least, that’s the order they got into food in my pantry.

Here’s some other stuff you should really know about mice in the kitchen.

1. They just want a place to call home.

Like most city-dwelling humans, mice enjoy the great outdoors during the spring and summer months. But then “they typically move indoors between October and February, as they hunt for food, water, and shelter from the cold,” says Cindy Mannes, spokesperson for the National Pest Management Association.

Once they hole up, they also breed — and quickly. (Hence that whole “if you have one, you really have more than one” thing.) Which is why prevention — and early intervention — is key.

2. They’re basically contortionists.

To gain access into your home, mice can fit through holes the size of a dime, Mannes says. (Take a moment and actually look at a dime. I’ll wait.) A dime is really freaking tiny!

Inspect the perimeters of your rooms and exterior walls (if you have access to them), particularly around where pipes enter, and fill any holes or cracks you find with silicone caulking or steel wool, which is one of the few materials that’s impervious to their sharp little teeth.

3. They’re great eaters.

If my accidental anecdotal insight wasn’t enough evidence, Mannes confirms that mice are relatively indiscriminate when it comes to their next meal. “House mice prefer to eat grains, fruits, seeds, and insects,” she says. “However, they will eat many other kinds of food, too, like chocolate.”

Store pantry foods in airtight containers or move ’em to the fridge to keep your staples from becoming rodent chow, and use a tightly lidded trash can when disposing of scraps.

4. They can carry the Black Plague!

It’d be pretty rare for you to catch it, but it’s not impossible: In terms of health hazards, mice are no joke. “House mice are vectors of salmonella, tapeworms, and the plague (via fleas), among other dangerous organisms,” Mannes says.

To a less-risky-but-still-annoying extent, their droppings and urine can also trigger allergies and asthma symptoms. What that means: If you find evidence of contamination, use a disinfectant that’s EPA-certified to kill germs and follow the directions carefully to be sure you’re using it correctly. Oh, and mice can also cause electrical fires if they nibble on random wires.

5. You have to think like a mouse to catch them.

It’s not about building a better mousetrap, but how you use the old standbys that makes catching the little critters most successful. “Snap traps are still one of the most effective methods,” Mannes says. “Pest pros will perform a thorough inspection of the infested area to discover exactly where the rodents are most active and place the traps in these areas to ensure maximum efficacy.”

Some strategies include placing traps along the perimeters of affected rooms, and near piles of droppings (poop!). But it can all be pretty tricky. “It depends on the entry points as well as where they ultimately build a nest,” Mannes explains. “For instance, if you have seen droppings and place a trap near them, but they are nesting behind your stove, it won’t do any good.” When in doubt, call in a pro.

Have some mice of your very own? Read even more about them.